Journal of 100 Miles

Celebrating the communities and culture along the 100 miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Tennessee.


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Jackson Falls

The natural marvels of the earth never cease to amaze me every time I get up close and personal with one.  Jackson Falls was just that.  An impromptu trip down the Trace this week had us stopping at the Baker Bluff Overlook to take in an incredible view of the Duck River, rolling hills and old barns.  The vast rain we’ve had over the past week has made everything lush and green, leaving the land a little drowned and the river overflowing.  We followed the trail marker indicating Jackson Falls 1/3 of a mile.  A fairly easy trail up and over a hill, which, come to find out, would lead to the next rest stop at Jackson Falls. Who needed a map to tell us that, we like adventure.   The added jaunt made a great hike for some scenery of old trees, wildflowers and vista views.

Coming upon the Jackson Falls stop, we noticed a great rest area with a covered space, picnic tables and a grill creating a perfectly peaceful scene and getaway spot, and making it a great place to go with family, a good book, your camera or to simply to find some tranquility.  A 900 foot steep, paved trail led us down to the falls.  It was breathtaking, and catching the falls after a long rain, as we learned, was the perfect time to see it.  The water was vast and flowing hard, an absolutely beautiful site. We passed an older couple making their way back up who said to us, “It’s been years since we’ve seen that much water here!”  Water was cascading down tiers of rock surrounded by bluffs, the smell of the air moist with oxygen, and just as the sight was taking our breath away, the greenery fed it right back to us.
Who says you need to travel far to take a vacation, find some peace and enjoy beauty – it’s right in our backyard.

May 2009


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Pickin’ and Grinnin’

A tradition going back as far as the annual homecoming, The Bethel Pickin’ and Grinnin’ happens every third Saturday of the month at the Community Center.  Tasty burgers and hotdogs are served by the friendliest of neighbors, and the main event features a covered pavillion complete with stage, dance floor and seating with an incredible display of bluegrass players and shoes that go tap, tap, clink, clink…a must experience event.

The area boasts some incredible musicians who created the rural area’s entertainment.  Bluegrass and gospel singing have been thriving here for many years and is a culture to appreciate.

To find Bethel – From the Natchez Trace, Exit Hwy 7 South, left on Leipers Creek Rd, 3 miles to community center on left; From Franklin, Take Hwy 46 to Leipers Fork, through center of town, stay straight on road which turns into Leipers Creek Rd, 11 miles to community center on right; From Columbia, take Hwy 7 north, right on Leipers Creek Rd, 3 miles to community center on left.


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The Strand Theatre- Circa 1938

It was a misty Saturday this past March as we ventured to Hohenwald, a quaint town of just over 3,700 people, to visit The Strand Theatre.  Built in 1938, the splendid building, in earlier days, was home to popular Hollywood movies and live performances from members of the Grand Ole Opry.  Even more remarkable were the news reels that played as family members watched hoping to catch a glimpse of loved ones overseas during WWII.  Soldiers on leave would even make surprise appearances.  Wilda Lawson, 72, whose family owned the theatre at the time, recalls working in the theatre when she was a young girl. “I remember popping popcorn and standing on wooden Coca-Cola trays so we could reach the popper,” says the local resident.  “I first sold tickets by myself when I was in the fifth grade,” she adds, “That’s how times were, they could trust you.”  Wilda can also remember when ticket prices were a mere 35 cents for adults and 11 cents for children.

This particular night of 2009 was a performance by the Highland String Quartet, four classical players with impressive credentials.  Collectively, they have performed at Carnegie Hall, with Opera Companies and Symphonies around the US and the world, are graduates and faculty of top music schools, Grammy winners and members of the Nashville String Machine who have recorded with the likes of Garth Brooks, Amy Grant, Carrie Underwood, Bruce Springsteen, Rascal Flatts, to name just a few. The acoustics were pure and beautiful resonating the sounds of their evening program, “Music Through the Ages from Mozart to Zeppelin.”  It was a true display of art and talent with a timeless sensation.

When the original theatre had closed many years ago, the building was turned into a general store. The theatre space, however, would remain hidden and unused until recent renovations recovered the stage with new shows brought to life.  Original brick and floors still remain throughout parts of the historic structure.   The re-opening of the theatre in 2007 was a grand celebration.  And, Wilda was there. “We started having swing bands in the ’30’s, and the first one that played (for the re-opening) was a salute to the WWII veterans, and it just brought the house down,” she happily recalls.

The Strand Theatre is now part of the Hohenwald Discovery Center complex and a program of the Hohenwald Arts Council that is solely run by volunteers.  Definitely worth a visit, be sure to check their calendar of events to find a show you can take in like the old days.   Visit hohenwaldtn.org or hohenwaldlewischamber.com for more information.

May 2009


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The Fox Family

Bethel, TN is not much more than two roads at a T, friendly neighbors and rural charm.   After stopping at Nett’s Grocery for some home cooking of meat and veggies (unfortunately, too full for the apple caramel pie), we stroll over to the Bethel Community Center to say hello to Larry Fox who was sweeping the front porch of the early 1900’s building.  We were digging for some information and history on the regularPickin’ and Grinnin’ each month.  But before that, we got to know a little more about this fascinating neighbor.  

Bethel has been home to many Fox family members of several generations.   They have been farmers, teachers, musicians and community leaders.  The very same building we stood in was where Larry started school as a young boy in 1946.  His fondest memory was the first day of school. “All these things going on, so many strange people, I ran off, went back home and hid under the bed.  My mom had wrapped a sandwich for me and I remember eating the sandwich under the bed.  Then they dragged me back to school and I got a good whoopin for it,” he laughs.  “You remember the show the Waltons?  We were just like the Waltons.”  Yes, folks, that’s coming straight from Larry.  No need for me to make any stereotypical comparison to an old TV show.  “I was in my overalls and barefoot.  Of course, we had shoes in the winter time,” he happily adds.

Country it may all seem, but this family is far from sheltered or unworldly.  His sister, Rita, has a degree in teaching from Middle Tennessee State University and taught at a local school for many years.  And, another fond memory he shares with me, “She rode her horse to work every day, through snow and everything else.”  Personally, that is what I have been striving for.  Larry and his wife have enjoyed traveling and have seen many parts of the country, as well as, many areas around the world.  “But, there’s nothing like coming home to this beautiful place,” he declares with a friendly smile.

(Pictured is Larry Fox with his sister, Rita)

May 2009


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Larry Montgomery – “As the Crows Fly” Artist

A jailhouse sits in a grassy corridor just off the main thoroughfare of Leipers Fork.  It’s an imitation, but unique nonetheless.  The small, log building is a renovated smoke house from the late 1800s, that now houses a mock jail cell, civil war artifacts, vintage clothing and entertaining photo opportunities for visitors.  There’s artwork also on display from the man behind the enterprise, Larry Montgomery.  The man of many hats runs his own residential cleaning business, the Jailhouse Industries and the Lawnchair Theatre.  But, what speaks most from his heart and is rooted in his soul is his art.

Perhaps sparked by the challenge of his mother when she said to him, “You couldn’t draw a fly,” the local resident discovered pencil and brush as a young boy that turned to a style all his own.  He would often draw funny characters, twerps and nerds he would call them, that even got the attention of National Lampoon.   A talent that has existed some forty years now, the artist’s work is colorful, quirky, folky and, as some like to say, drawn “as the crows fly,” which is noticeable in his unique maps of the town.   While studying at Louisiana Tech, his teachers included world-renowned painters Robert E. Woods and Douglas Walton.

Speaking with Larry is always enjoyable.  He’s a southern gentleman friendly in conversation, who likes to refer to himself as a “Tennessee Boy.”   The resident is full of historical knowledge of the south, the civil war, Indians and the Natchez Trace and loves to share his passion of capturing the local area with his artwork.  Pencil sketches with a touch of watercolor, with added detail and character, are a display of subjects that have meaning to people, like their homes, the towns they live in, the church they attend. “I love creating art that is about what people cherish, and I’ll add other images to it to make it come alive,” declares the artist. 

Fuel for this creative mind comes from having old movies on in the background and painting at night.   “When I’m painting, I get into a different zone,” says Montgomery.   And, like many of us who have juggled too many irons in the fire, he will admit to a period of time the brush was put down, until inspiration would hit again and he realized the importance of making the time.

Larry Montgomery is an artist, entrepreneur, a pillar of the community and a creative soul.  He has original art, prints, note cards and maps for sale.  Give him a call at 615.477.6799 to schedule a visit.

May 2009


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Bethel – The Fox Family

BETHEL – THE FOX FAMILY

Bethel, TN is not much more than two roads at a T, friendly neighbors and rural charm.   After stopping at Nett’s Grocery for some home cooking of meat and veggies (unfortunately, too full for the apple caramel pie), we stroll over to the Bethel Community Center to say hello to Larry Fox who was sweeping the front porch of the early 1900’s building.  We were digging for some information and history on the regular Pickin’ and Grinnin’ each month.  But before that, we got to know a little more about this fascinating neighbor.

Bethel has been home to many Fox family members of several generations.   They have been farmers, teachers, musicians and community leaders.  The very same building we stood in was where Larry started school as a young boy in 1946.  His fondest memory was the first day of school. “All these things going on, so many strange people, I ran off, went back home and hid under the bed.  My mom had wrapped a sandwich for me and I remember eating the sandwich under the bed. Then they dragged me back to school and I got a good whoopin for it,” he laughs. “You remember the show the Waltons?  We were just like the Waltons.”  Yes, folks, that’s coming straight from Larry.  No need for me to make any stereotypical comparison to an old TV show.  “I was in my overalls and barefoot.  Of course, we had shoes in the winter time,” he happily adds.

Country it may all seem, but this family is far from sheltered or unworldly.  His sister, Rita, has a degree in teaching from Middle Tennessee State University and taught at a local school for many years.  And, another fond memory he shares with me, “She rode her horse to work every day, through snow and everything else.”  Personally, that is what I have been striving for.  Larry and his wife have enjoyed traveling and have seen many parts of the country, as well as, many areas around the world.  “But, there’s nothing like coming home to this beautiful place,” he declares with a friendly smile.

(Pictured is Larry Fox with his sister, Rita)

May 2009